Everyone runs into a little writer’s block from time to time (it’s why we’ve written tons of articles about this topic over the years!). It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, the waxing and waning of creative energy is an important part of the process, and everyone experiences a lull in creative flow at least once in their career (if not somewhat regularly).
As it turns out, being able to generate creativity where none might seem to be evident, is a learnable process; more like a science than a mysterious art. Writer’s block certainly is not payback for angering the demon muses!
Usually, it’s an indication that something should be addressed — an emotional blockage, physical exhaustion, too much repetition, or simply running out of ideas. Below, we’ll go over some of our favorite personal remedies for pushing through writer’s block, so you can get on with penning your next great work of art.
And on a similar note for you songwriters out there, if you find that your songs tend to stall out somewhere in the creative process, check out Soundfly’s Songwriting For Producers course, designed to help you turn your strongest ideas into fully finished works.
1. Fill the Well
Writer’s block can often be the result of exerting a lot of creative energy and not getting any back. So one of the best ways to get your juices flowing again is to consume other people’s art. Read a new book, explore new music, get out and enjoy a movie, take in a play. Make an effort to try out works of art you normally wouldn’t gravitate towards.
Pro Tip: In-person experiences like going to see a live concert or comedy typically have more impact, but, as we all know, that might not be possible right now. Jot it down as something to look forward to later.
Writing music isn’t exactly physically taxing. Getting up and moving around will not only help you maintain your health, exercise has also been shown to increase creative thinking. Getting a good workout in on a regular basis is a necessary part of being a healthy person, and also an important part of a strong creative flow.
3. Get Out
One of the best authorities in the business of building up creative reserves is Julia Cameron. Her 1992 book, The Artists Way, lays out ways artists and non-artists alike can enhance their self-confidence and harness their talents for spiritual replenishment. According to Cameron, walking is a crucial aspect of creative “recovery,” and for good reason. Not only is it exercise, but it gets you out of the house, seeing new things and refreshing your perspective, and interacting with the details of the world which may lead to fundamental creative observations.
Easier said than done, right? Artists tend to romanticize the all-nighter. Yet while the solitary, mysterious vibes at night can be super compelling, in general, lack of sleep does damage one’s clarity for thinking creatively. And it also leads to exhaustion and health compromises over time. You best get plenty of sleep to go along with other healthy habits, if you want to remain creative for the long haul.
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Sometimes you just need to get out (or stay in) and have some fun! According to psychologists, open or free play helps your brain create subconscious connections and you’ll enjoy the positive motivational results of disassociating from your stress points simultaneously. Make something weird, run around the room, play board games, toss a frisbee, and do whatever it takes to help you forget everything that’s holding you up and just “be.”
Utilizing free improvisation exercises in rehearsal, or even on stage, is a great way to refresh the compositional knots and tangles you might be experiencing as well, and rejuvenate that open-minded sense of “well, what if I tried this?” And on that note…
+ Read more on Flypaper: “Doodle…Why? To Become a Better Musician, Of Course.”
Sometimes the way to get out of writer’s block is to write your way out. Journaling in the morning when your dreams are fresh, or taking your instrument and just improvising for half an hour can work wonders. When journaling or brainstorming, make sure not to edit, or even think about what you’re writing. Just write three or four full pages without stopping. Even if the whole first page says “I have nothing to say” over and over again.
7. Leave Perfectionism Behind
We’re always hearing about some great maestro or famous producer who’s just the ultimate perfectionist. Every little detail has to be right and they’ll never quits and never accept anything until it’s absolutely, totally, unequivocally perfect.
Well, that doesn’t really work for everyone. In most circumstances, perfectionism will stop you dead in your tracks. Be thorough and do whatever you can to make your mix, or your string arrangement, sound as good as it can, but at some point you’re going to have to leave it and walk away. There’s a good chance you’ve tapped everything you can get from that one.
8. Get Away From It
This is similar to the above point but slightly different. You might not be finished with something that’s giving you a hard time, but it’s always helpful to take a step back from it every once and a while. Let your subconscious work on that puzzle while you take a walk or learn to cook; in other words, sleep on it for a bit.
As a creative, you shouldn’t try to prove your worth by sitting in front of the computer 16 hours a day. Creativity is as much about letting it happen and flow, as it is about doing something professionally and well. You can always allow yourself a night, a week, or a month, to leave something alone and come back to it later.
+ Looking to produce better music and make more fluent use of the emotional capabilities of chord progressions and harmonic theory? Preview Soundfly’s Unlocking the Emotional Power of Chords course for free today.
9. Find a Driving Purpose
It always helps to have a single reason for why you’d like to finish a project, something driving you to reach the finish line. And it doesn’t have to be spiritual either. Money, getting paid to finish the track, is a great motivator, but it might also blind you to the source of your creative energies if you’re not careful.
You can also plan future things to hold yourself accountable, like blasting out a social media post that in three months your single will come out. Hey, that’s one way to get started on that single! Sometimes setting up a real, tangible driver can be just the kick in the pants you need.
10. Look Back at Your Own Stuff
Need some immediate inspiration? Look back at all those old song ideas or lyric sheets you wrote way back when, that never got turned into actual tracks. There’s bound to be something in those files that speaks to you, that you couldn’t quite figure out back then. Let your former self inspire you today.
11. Get Help
It’s worth acknowledging that writer’s block can sometimes happen when your emotional state is not in its best condition. Psychologists have identified a number of deep-seated reasons that writers and artists get stuck for long periods of time, and there’s no shame in admitting you may have reached an impasse that’s bigger than normal. After all, artists do deal with some pretty heavy emotions, and life throws us a lot of curve balls.
So, if you find that nothing is working, or the joy you once had for creating seems to have disappeared, it’s not a bad idea to seek the help of a qualified counselor. It’s just like how an athlete might seek the help of a physical therapist when injured, go look for someone you can talk to for a session and see how it feels to let it out.
Every creative person has their own way of working, and that includes getting past blockages. Let us know some of your favorite techniques for overcoming writer’s block, and the next time you’re stuck, see if something from the above list helps.
And now, let it flow!
Which, by the way, Soundfly can definitely help with! For access to all of our online courses on recording, mixing, producing, composing, and songwriting, simply subscribe to start learning and developing your musical ideas into fully fleshed out songs.
[editors note: This article was written by Aaron Trumm and was originally featured on Flypaper on Soundfly.]